Have you heard the saying “complacency is the mother of all cock ups”? I doubt it as I think I just made it up. But it sums up our journey to the airport when we left Istanbul.
At some point in the 24 hour period before departure I convinced myself that the airport we needed to depart from was the same one we landed into when we arrived. A simple journey back along the metro line. This was further confirmed by the hotel who mentioned Taksim Square when I asked how we get to the airport. It was only a 1 hour internal flight so we planned to get to the airport 90 minutes before take off. We spent a lazy hour at the hotel drinking cold drinks and blogging and then with 2 hours before take off we organised a taxi which took us the Metro station. Or so we thought. In fact the driver dropped us at a road full of buses and we had to struggle our bags past the queuing passengers to get to the Metro station.
Once we got there we gazed at the huge Metro map on the wall of the station, wondering why the airport wasn’t listed. I reached for the travel guide book and flicked through the pages trying to work out what was going on. We must have looked really confused because a young chap and his girlfriend approached and offered assistance. He explained that we were in completely the wrong part of the city, and he and his companion then led us on a panicked jaunt through some back streets until we reached the buses we had passed earlier. Then it all became clear. The airport we needed was actually in Asia. We were at this point still in Europe.
We loaded our bags on to the bus and took our seats. I looked at my watch to see that we had 1 hour and 40 minutes left. Then I looked at the guide book which told me that the journey would take 1 hour and 3o minutes. I was convinced this must be wrong so I went to ask the driver. Instead I found a couple of backpackers. When I told them that our flight left at 6.40 they laughed. Their’s left at 9pm and they though they were cutting it fine.
We were down to the “last chance saloon” option. A taxi. In London, or some other driving law abiding nation we would have been screwed. But in Istanbul I had already come to notice that driving skills were erratic. Not Thailand erratic admittedly, but sloppy enough that we might be saved by some gung-ho driving. We told the taxi driver where we needed to go and how quickly we needed to get there. He named a high price and I waved a wad of cash at him. As we wrestled with the rarely used seat belts in the back of his cab the driver screeched onto the wrong side of the road and dived into a back street.
“Yeah yeah whatever. Let’s go!” said Mark, in the process making the taxi driver rich for one day.
As soon as we reached the motorway we hit traffic. The driver, using his few words of English and some very impressive hand signals explained that there were two toll bridges. One was cheap and blocked, the other expensive and without traffic. I have no idea if this is true but we said yes and the price of the journey went up.
45 minutes later, after endless back streets, tailgating, horn sounding, toll booth charging (who would have thought that number plate recognition worked at the speed of sound?) and abusive hand gestures we were only minutes away from the airport. The driver, buoyed by his sterling performance and the fact that he was about to receive a handsome sum of money in less than an hour, offered me a celebratory cigarette. I declined so instead, as a result linguistic barriers we all tried to guess the population of London.
Then it was all plain sailing and we made the flight. Fairly annoying situation averted. Though I will take the chance to one again vent about Americans clapping at the exact moment that the plane touches down. Why do they do that? If they could at least wait until we have slowed to safe speed (landing is rather dangerous after all, relatively speaking) that would be great.